Although we live in the age of cyberbullying and online scams, the internet still holds the power to do good in the world. Indeed, one woman discovered this to be true when she was in desperate need of help in the run-up to Christmas. The hero of this story? Social media.
The Gretschels are a brother and sister from Maryland with a very special bond. Cassie is older sister to Max, who was born with cerebral palsy. Max has been severely disabled for his entire life, in both a physical and mental capacity.
Despite the fact that he is 25 years old, Max’s mental age is that of a five year old. He also has to use a wheelchair a lot of the time and has trouble with his vision. That means that toys painted in vivid hues are most attractive to him.
So when Christmas comes around, Cassie has always known what she should get her little brother as a gift. Max has received the same specific toy under the tree every year for nearly two decades, and Christmas 2017 was expected to be no different.
However, Cassie found herself in a spot of bother. She needed to find the specific Tonka toy truck in time for Christmas, but it wasn’t proving easy. In previous years she had simply logged onto eBay and searched for the toy there, but in 2017 it was more difficult.
The problem was that Max only liked one particular cop car, which, unfortunately for Cassie, had been discontinued by Tonka. It was made back in 2000, and it was the only Tonka truck that her little brother would play with, despite her efforts to replace it.
One year, Cassie even thought about making a replica truck, having tried and failed to spruce up trucks that Max already had to make him think it was a different one. But her eagle-eyed little brother would always know if it wasn’t a genuine Tonka truck.
Speaking to Buzzfeed in November 2017, Cassie explained a little more about her annual task of tracking down the perfect toy. “They used to be really easy to find because we would just get orange ones, and then I made the mistake of finding a blue one on eBay and now he only wants blue ones,” she said.
With eBay not coming up with the goods, Cassie knew she’d have to think of another plan. She wanted to make sure Max got his Christmas wish, having watched him play with his beloved truck endlessly. So, Cassie decided to call upon the internet for help.
First, Cassie logged on to Imgur. It was November 2017, and so there was enough time to put out a plea ahead of Christmas. She entitled her post, “Mission Impossible: Trying to find a blue Tonka hummer truck,” and began explaining her situation.
“If anyone has one of these in their attics, please throw it on eBay!” she wrote at the end of the post, in the hope that the right person would read it and make her brother’s Christmas. She also added photographs of Max happily playing with his other trucks.
It didn’t take long for her post to go totally viral. It quickly gathered more than 130,000 views and more than 5000 comments. The story clearly touched people’s hearts, and a lot of the readers offered to help in any way that they could. For example, they suggested stores that might still stock the specific truck – even one in the U.K.
Cassie’s plea also appeared on viral website Reddit, where it only gathered more interest. It was only a matter of time before toy company, Tonka, heard about all the fuss. In fact, some Reddit users had actually messaged the manufacturers on Cassie’s behalf.
And indeed, Tonka did eventually get in touch with Cassie to discuss Max’s Christmas gift. The toy manufacturer quickly sprung into action when it heard about Max’s love for the toys. But would they be able to locate a blue Hummer police truck for him?
Even though the model was made 17 years previously, the company conducted a hunt throughout its warehouse in California in case there was one hidden there. What’s more, Tonka also trawled through its storage unit in China to see if it could find the particular model.
And in an incredible twist of fate, it actually managed to find one in the end. Not only that, but Tonka customized it and packaged it up, ready to be shipped to Max in time for Christmas day itself. Soon, a good-as-new police car was winging its way to the Gretschels’ Christmas tree.
Tonka kept the public updated with the progress of Max’s story on its Facebook page. They also took the opportunity to thank the online community for helping it connect with Cassie. Max’s story “touches our hearts,” it wrote.
Then Christmas finally came around, and Max was ready to open his gifts. Under the tree he found the police truck sent directly from Tonka, and, looking at the photos, he seemed delighted with it. But there’s even more to the story.
Some Reddit users also did something awesome. It turned out that Max received a further influx of Tonka trucks from the online community too, and Cassie thanked them all in another Imgur post. And there was one more “Christmas miracle,” according to Cassie.
Previously only fussed about one particular police truck, Max surprised everyone that Christmas by showing interest in others too. He started playing with different types of Tonka trucks, although he’s still a big fan of the Hummer police car.
Max’s story just goes to show the true power of the internet and, in particular, social media. Not only that but the sheer amount of people that rallied together to make sure that Max had a magical Christmas is nothing short of inspirational.